Top 5 Tips to Save Money on Google Ads

Top 5 Tips to Save Money on Google Ads

12th February 2020

As a quick way to get in front of potential customers, Google Ads can be a worthwhile choice for many businesses. However, an increasingly common complaint from many businesses appears to be around the belief that they cannot afford it. Many now believe that only businesses that can afford to pay higher prices to be at the top of Google search results have any chance in competing in the search auction process.

To an extent, this has some truth; Google Ads is increasing in popularity. But the answer may not lie in simply spending more. In fact, it is often the case that many businesses are wasting money on Google ads. It’s more about being smart with the budget rather than increasing it.

So how exactly do we save money on Google Ads? There are many areas to look at in an account that could help decrease costs and prevent unnecessary spending. Here are 5 simple and effective methods:

1. Location targeting

Let’s say, for example, that you are a business that provides a service in Birmingham. Have you checked where your ads are showing? As default in the UK, Google Ads will set a campaign to run all over the UK unless you have told it otherwise. Of course, you cannot service the entire UK, therefore, the money spent in any locations outside of Birmingham has been wasted.

This can be changed in your campaign settings by clicking on ‘Enter another location’. 

location settings adwords

It’s also worth noting another pitfall that could be costing you money unnecessarily lies in the ‘Location options’ just below the location settings. Clicking on this gives you 3 options:

  • People in, or who show interest in, your targeted locations
  • People in or regularly in your targeted locations
  • People searching for your targeted locations

By default Google will select and recommend targeting ‘People in, or who show interest in, your targeted locations’ However, It’s always worth begging the question, are people who simply show interest in your location worthwhile targeting? There are many accounts showing ads outside of their targeted locations, even all over the world. As you could imagine, this can be a huge drain on money.

Not sure where your ads are showing? Take a look at the ‘locations’ tab in your account. This will give you an overview of the statistics from within the area you are targeting. Then click ‘geographic report – user location report’.

geo locations google ads

This will then list the countries the ads have appeared in with basic data such as clicks, impressions, cost, etc. Clicking on the country will then allow you to drill down deeper – in the case of the Birmingham service provider, it would be worth double-checking cities to see if there has been any spend in other cities.

It can be quite an eye-opener but luckily a very easy fix.

2. Negative keywords

If you are running a Google Ads account, the chances are you have spent a fair amount of time researching the keywords you would like to show up for. But what about the keywords you don’t want to show up for?

This is where negative keywords can help. This is your opportunity to tell Google what keywords you don’t want your ad to appear for.

For example, let’s say you are a plumber and you want to run ads to promote your boiler repair service you may want to use keywords such as:

Boiler repair service
One off boiler repair
Emergency boiler repair

You get the picture. However, you may want to ensure that you are not getting any searches that involve the following terms:


…and likely many more terms that could be coming from such searches. These are your negative keywords. Making sure you have inputted this in your negative keywords or in a shared keywords list (recommended) can very quickly save you a bit of money and prevents irrelevant traffic coming to your site.

Quick tip: even though there may be terms that you think are not worth excluding (the term ‘jobs’ is often one), it’s worth questioning if you want to be paying for this search and is it likely to positively impact the business’s bottom line.

3. Automated bidding

Automated bidding is currently a sensitive topic for many people who manage a Google Ads campaign. Google are recommending it and have been pushing this feature fairly aggressively over the last year. However, it might not work best for your business.

Even though they make it a little bit of a journey to get to, within your campaign settings, you do have the option on manual CPC (cost per click) – allowing you to choose how much you want to bid per specific keyword.

The default setting from Google is to ‘focus on’ either conversions or clicks. By selecting conversions, Google will ‘optimise for conversions’ meaning it will select how much per spend per click for you, entirely automating the bidding process. The same applies for the other optimisation options. For example with clicks, Google will do everything it can to drive as many clicks to the website as it possibly can.

automated bidding options google

You can imagine how this can quickly lose a little control and spend more than what you would want to per conversion. It’s also worth considering other elements of control that you may be missing out on. For example, if a keyword is particularly expensive per click and it’s not a priority keyword, you may want to reduce the amount you are spending on it as it could be eating up the budget.

It’s not to say that automatic bidding is necessarily bad – it just might not be best for your business and it’s worth at least considering manual bidding.

4. Default placements

When you set up a new campaign in Google Ads, did you know that the default is to show your ads on the display network as well as the ‘search partners’ network too? 

Search & display network search ads

As you can see in the screenshot, this may not be the type of ad placement that was intended to run. Often, this gets missed and this can be quite an expensive oversight.

Most accounts get the best results when they run their search campaigns and display campaigns separately. The targeting options for each are pretty different and the ads reach people at different parts of the buying cycle. For example a search ad will more likely appear to someone who is ready to convert. We know this as they are looking for something in particular. Whereas a display ad is showing up to someone as they are browsing other people’s websites and may not be as ready to convert. As such it is helpful to keep the targeting and ad copy as different entities.

Want to know if placements are dragging down your overall stats, increasing costs or maybe even helping your campaigns? Simply go to campaigns – segment – network (with search partners). This will split out your campaign data.

search partners increasing cpc

As we can see in the example above, the display network and search partners may not have been more expensive per click but dragged down the click-through-rate and cost quite a bit of budget.

5. Sending people to a homepage

google ads landing page

Let’s imagine for one moment that you are the customer. You are searching for the perfect pair of socks to go with your new sandals by searching for “long plain white socks”, you see an ad that offers long white socks so you click on it. At this point, you would expect to be taken to a product page offering your dream socks. If you were taken to a homepage instead, this means you have to browse the site to find them.

Are you likely to do that? A human has a lower attention span than a goldfish (for real) and we are prone to clicking off a site if it doesn’t instantly provide what we were looking for.

So what does this mean to an advertiser? It means you should take people to specific pages related to your ads. Losing people from your site can be an expensive loss as you have paid for the traffic but not seen the return.

This is simple enough to do and you can find the final URL option in the ad copy, or at keyword level if you find that more helpful.

Bonus tip

Not every industry is the same

Some accounts will see a very low cost-per-click whereas others may see a very high cost-per-click. For example eCommerce businesses experience a lower average cost per click compared to a company in the finance industry.

If you are really struggling to cut down the cost of Google Ads, have you considered Microsoft Ads (previously known as Bing Ads)? Whilst it’s true that it has fewer people using it, you may find you have fewer competitors using it which can be very cost-effective!

Written By
Alix is a digital marketing consultant and managing director of Alix Digital. With over 10 years marketing experience, Alix specialises in PPC, SEO and content writing.
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